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End of the American empire? (Part 1)

IN a speech before the Munich Security Conference last February 17, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his hope that the world “will choose a democratic world order in which each country is defined by its sovereignty.”

He further described this world order as “a post-West one.”

American Senator John McCain for his part said that many in the world are concerned that the United States seems to be abandoning its role as a global leader.

While acknowledging that “these are dangerous times,” the Arizona senator warned that nations must never “count America out.” These two remarks offer two contrasting views on the issue of whether we are now seeing the beginning of the end of the “American Empire.”

The election of President Donald J. Trump, with his “America First” rhetoric and the flexing of muscles by China and Russia seem to show the waning of the so-called “American Century.”

I belong to the generation of Filipinos whose lives have been shaped by the American Century where the US was the superpower. And just like my generation who has given way to younger generations, the generation of American dominance seems to be waning.

I grew up admiring the US. I am sure this is true with many in my generation. We looked to the US for leadership. We longed for “Made in the US” products. We dreamed of coming to America.

Today, everything is “Made in China,” millions of Filipinos have already arrived in America and have, in fact, reached the farthest places of the earth. And world leadership is increasingly being contested by China and Russia.

The good Senator from Arizona calls it “dangerous times.”

Maybe these are exciting times because of the changes that are constantly happening.

Our country was inextricably linked to the rise of American global power near the end of the 19th century when the US occupied the Philippines after the 1898 Treaty of Paris.

In essence, we were the training ground for US imperial ambitions. The two world wars of course provided the US and the Soviet Union with a world stage to compete for dominance.

This also explains why in the 1960’s and 70s we had a strong pro-US sentiment as well as an equally strong anti-US sentiment, especially among the youth and the educated sector. Then the collapse of the Soviet Union led to what scholars refer to as a uni-polar world order dominated by the US.

But becoming the “policeman of the world” has its cost. The US realized that being the lone superpower, with its penchant to intervene in the affairs of almost every nations, is very expensive. I call it the paradox of grandeur – that which is necessary for superpowers to exert their influence is the same thing that will threaten its superior position.

The war in Vietnam and other excursions into many country’s domestic affairs meant more money needed to finance their military.

More recently, protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq led not only to the loss of thousands of American lives but also caused a financial hemorrhage, to the tune of $6 trillion.

The American economy was also battered with crises after crises with the most recent one – the economic collapse of 2008 – causing worldwide consequences.

Forbes magazine reported that America’s contribution to the global economy has been declining. It said that in 1960, “US GDP represented 40% of global GDP,” but today “US GDP contributes only 22% of the world’s economic output.”

Even in terms of median wealth per capita, the US lags behind countries like Spain, Cyprus, and Qatar. As reported by Jill Hamburg Coplan of Fortune magazine, the “per capita median income in the US ($18,700) is also relatively low–and unchanged since 2000.”

US Census data also show that about 45.3 million Americans are poor ranking only 36th out of 162 countries. The US also has the fourth highest inequality in the world.

Moreover, “the US ranked 16th in adult literacy, 21st in adult numeracy out of 23, and 14th in problem-solving, in a skills survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Even assuming, without conceding, that the demise of US power is exaggerated as Sen. McCain suggested, there seems to be no debate that American dominance is in a decline. It is now past its prime. Just like the other empires in history, we seem to be approaching the end of an era.

(To be continued)

(For comments/feedback email to:mbv.secretariat@gmail or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.)(Senator Manny Villar)

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